Wartime Holidays and the 'Myth of the Blitz'

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Published histories of the British home front during the Second World War, both academic and popular, say little or nothing about civilian holidays; the implication is that for most people they did not exist. This article disputes that reading. Complementing earlier work on officially sponsored 'Holidays at Home', the article first looks briefly at 1930s holiday expectations, then summarizes government measures to restrain 'unnecessary' wartime travel. Using rail-travel statistics, memoirs and diaries, contemporary novels, local press reports, Mass-Observation and other surveys it shows that throughout the war large numbers of people took holidays much as they had in peacetime. This apparent contradiction is then discussed in relation to, for instance, ideas of 'normality' and 'wartime', the survival of class in Britain, the wartime economy and the debate on the 'myth of the blitz' view of civilian behaviour.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/1478003805cs026oa

Affiliations: Public History Group, Ruskin College, Oxford

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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